Symbolism in to Kill a Mockingbird

Written by: Tutor. Linnet
Updated: Nov 30, 2023
Read Summary
Cite this
Symbolism in to Kill a Mockingbird

This essay will delve into the symbolism in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” It will discuss key symbols such as the mockingbird, the Radley house, and the camellia flowers, examining how they enhance the novel’s themes of racial injustice, innocence, and moral growth. The piece will analyze how Lee uses these symbols to develop her characters and to provide deeper layers of meaning to the narrative. It will also explore the novel’s setting and historical context, explaining how the symbolism reflects the social and moral dilemmas of the American South during the 1930s. On PapersOwl, there’s also a selection of free essay templates associated with To Kill A Mockingbird.

Date added
Pages:  3
Words:  992
Order Original Essay

How it works

What is symbolism? What is the importance of symbolism? Why do we use symbolism in literature? Symbolism refers to the use of symbols to represent ideas and qualities by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal meaning. In literature, symbols can be items, characters, ideas, or even colors used to represent larger concepts. Authors often use symbolism to communicate in-depth ideas or themes without stating them. Symbols are often used to represent something important. Symbolism is used to represent a complex idea visually and visually appealingly, enhancing its understanding.

Need a custom essay on the same topic?
Give us your paper requirements, choose a writer and we’ll deliver the highest-quality essay!
Order now

Today, one of the many universal symbols is four-leaf clovers which stand for hope, faith, love, and luck. Another universal symbol is the peace symbol, which stands for peace, love, harmony, and good vibes. Symbols like the four-leaf clover and the peace symbol are everywhere, and we often see many different symbols being used in novels. In the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, the mockingbird itself, Tim Johnson (the mad dog), and the Radley House tree are significant symbols. They are used to represent deeper meanings about the topic.

What Does a Mockingbird Symbolize?

In the novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, perhaps the most significant symbol to talk about is the symbolism of the mockingbird. The title is more than just a title; but is a symbol of what is to happen in the story. In chapter 10, Atticus says, “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird” (Lee p. 119). Atticus says this to Jem and Scout after they get their air-rifles, and it was the only time he said it was a sin to do something, which means that he does not want his children to commit that sin. In chapter 10, Miss Maudie says, “Mockingbirds do not do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They do not eat up people’s gardens, do not nest in corncribs, they do not do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That is why killing a mockingbird is a sin” (p. 119). This quote shows that the mockingbird symbolizes innocence because mockingbirds only sing to us and do not do anything to harm us; instead, they try to do good things.

The mockingbird symbolizes innocence, so the title implies that innocence is being killed or destroyed. Some characters can be viewed as mockingbirds throughout this novel, such as Boo Radley. Boo Radley is like a mockingbird because he does not harm anyone; instead, he leaves presents for Scout and Jem, covers Scout with a blanket during the fire, and then ends up saving the children from Bob Ewell and the other attackers. Boo has never done anything but be thoughtful and look out for the children, but the town often misunderstands him. This means that he represents innocents who are damaged or destroyed by evil. 

Finch Symbolism

Tim Johnson was the property of Mr. Harry Johnson and was like a pet to Maycomb. In February, Tim was infected with rabies, which was odd because dogs usually got infected with rabies near August. In chapter 10, Calpurnia says, “I know it is February, Miss Eula May, but I know a mad dog when I see one” (p. 124). This quote shows that even Calpurnia thought it was unusual to see a mad dog in February but was still very sure it was a mad dog. Atticus was told to shoot the mad dog because Mr. Heck Tate said he could not shoot that well. Atticus did not want to shoot the dog but had to shoot him; the children learned that he was One-Shot Finch since Atticus had to shoot Tim, which means he is fighting against racism to get justice which goes back to Tom Robinson.

 Tim and Tom probably have similar names for a reason; Atticus was chosen to defend Tom, which he did. Tim Johnson represents the mob, injustice, and anything Atticus has to fight. Scout had started her first days of school, and to get to school, she had to pass by the Radley House. One day a knot-hole in the tree near the Radley house caught her attention, and she found two pieces of gum inside the knot-hole. Chapter 4 says, “… and withdrew two pieces of chewing gum minus their outer wrapper” (p. 44). This was the first time Scout had found something in the tree, and she still took both pieces without knowing whose they were. She found little presents in the knot-hole from that day forward, but then Mr. Radley filled in the knot-hole with cement. In chapter 7, Mr. Radley said, “Tree’s dying. You plug ’em with cement when they are sick. You ought to know that, Jem” (p. 83). Mr. Radley’s reason for filling the knot-hole with cement was because the tree was dying, but that was not true. Mr. Radley just did not want Boo to communicate with the children. The knot-hole in the tree was the only way for Boo to communicate with the children nicely. He was trying to be nice and giving so that the children would not be afraid of him. The knot-hole in the tree represents Jem and Scout’s friendship with Boo.

In conclusion, symbolism is important to include in literature. The mockingbird, the mad dog, and the tree by the Radley House are important symbols found in the novel. The mockingbird symbolizes innocence, so the title suggests that innocence is being killed or destroyed. There are many examples of mockingbirds in the novel, so this symbol is the most significant. Tim Johnson represents anything Atticus has to fight. Tim Johnson is also associated with Tom Robinson. The tree near the Radley House represents Jem and Scout’s friendship with Boo. Overall, it is important to use and understand symbolism to comprehend deeper ideas or themes within the literature. Symbolism helps in understanding the immediate environment by engaging the mind and eyes.

Work Cited

Lee, Harper. To kill a mockingbird. Random House, 2010.

The deadline is too short to read someone else's essay
Hire a verified expert to write you a 100% Plagiarism-Free paper

Cite this page

Symbolism in To Kill a Mockingbird. (2020, Feb 28). Retrieved from